The Expository Files

 

When The End Comes 

Jeremiah 14:11-16


Someone once said, "All good things must come to an end." That is true, but the fact is, all things must come to an end on this earth — good or bad. As far as mankind, it has been revealed in God's word, “it is appointed for men to die once” (Heb. 9:27). And for the creation itself, God's word tells us, “the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10). Nothing on this earth will survive in its current state, for even our lowly body will be transformed on the day of Christ's return. As Paul said: “the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52).

But some now deny the reality of an end such as God's word describes! Some deny there will ever be an end — of any kind! Some who begin with a denial of God suppose that this world on which we live and the universe in which it exists will continue forever or, at worst, continually degrade for billions and billions of years until some supernova or other catastrophic universal event will change things. To many, though, no thought is given to their end or, if any consideration of the end is given at all, it is short and shallow and pushed aside for the consideration of the 'here and now' more often than not. Most people would rather think about only today and not think about their future and what is to inevitably come. It's as if the vast majority thinks, "If I don't talk about it, it isn't real." But denying reality does not change reality! Try denying the reality of gravity and then jump off of a 10-story building; you might deny it for about 95 feet, but you will come face to face with reality soon afterwards.

Instead of denying reality [the eventual end of all things], let’s consider Jeremiah 14:11-16 and how it describes a time when God’s people denied reality up until the very end, and let us learn the lessons they did not learn — and for which they paid dearly. And let's boil it down to one, simple question: When the end comes, will you be prepared? We need to know some things right now — before that day comes, because when the end comes:

It Will Be Too Late. (vv. 11, 12) In the context, Israel was the one being chastised by God, even as they neared the punishment He had promised [captivity]. Though God had warned them time and time again, the people continued in their evil ways and followed after the gods of the surrounding nations. Sadly, because they had rejected Him and His warnings so many times (cf. 2 Chron. 36:15, 16), it was too late for anyone to now intervene on their behalf. What a sad statement! To whom would they go now that it was too late to seek God’s help and favor — the surrounding nations? They would be of no help. The fact was, their end was sealed.

When this was written, it was too late for these people to do anything about their punishment; it was certain that they were going to captivity. Our eternal destination is not yet certain, so let us heed the words spoken by God to His people before that day: “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isa. 55:6). They had had opportunities to seek the Lord before that day, but they passed by those opportunities; don't let that be us! Let us heed the words of the apostle Paul: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). When the end comes, it will be too late to seek God; NOW is the time!

God also said He would not hear their cry when they fasted (v. 12). The implication of the fasting was that the people now had penitent hearts. But, alas, God said it was too late! The lesson we must certainly learn from this is that the time of repentance is NOW, for when the end comes, it will be too late to suddenly feel sorry for having transgressed the will of God! Then, we will be judged for the deeds done in the body (2 Cor. 5:10), not for the utter terror and remorse we will feel in our hearts as we then stand before the God we once denied. Right now is the time for repentance, for as the psalmist said, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psa. 34:18). Blessed is the one who now realizes his spiritual destitution and who mourns his pitiful condition (Matt. 5:3, 4). Then it will be too late to repent; NOW is the time!

God also said that He would not accept their offerings (v. 12). Now, think about that; here is something that God had commanded, yet now He said He would no longer accept it from them — especially at this point. These people had a long history of failing to offer the required sacrifices, offering the required sacrifices without any real meaning, and dishonoring God by what they did give. The audacity of the people was demonstrated in that they went so far as to offer their children as sacrifices to their idols and on the same day come to the house of God to give the pretense of worship and faithfulness (Ezek. 23:37-39). Is it any wonder God would refuse their sacrifices — especially now that it was done only as a last resort?

Surely we can see the lesson for us in this passage: worship Him NOW and worship Him as He has instructed us. Many today refuse to worship the Lord, or refuse to worship Him as He prescribed, but I am confident that all will willingly acknowledge Him as Lord when the end comes — but it will then be too late! Let us now acknowledge Him as Lord in humble submission by obeying His words; then — and only then — can we call Him our Savior (Heb. 5:9). Rejecting Christ as the means of our salvation is just as repulsive in the sight of God as those of old who offered sacrifices with wicked intent. Let us not forget the words of the writer of Hebrews, who warned of the terrifying surety of punishment for those who have “trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:29). The sacrifice we must offer is self (Rom. 12:1) and it must be done NOW! When the end comes, it will be too late to try to offer something to God in service and worship. NOW is the time!

Some Deny The Reality of the End. (vv. 13, 14) All the time God’s real prophets warned of the pending end and concurrent punishment, the people of God protested, the prophets denied it, and the priests disparaged any idea that God would actually punish them. But, again, denial is not reality! The psalmist tells us, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psa. 14:1), but does his denial mean God really doesn’t exist? Of course not! To the fool, God does not exist simply because he says so, and that is why he is a fool! The fact is, those who deny God's existence do so because they do not want to accept the consequences: a necessary implication that obedience to His will is expected! On the day, when all stand before the judgment throne, none will then deny Him, but then it will be too late! Though God did not leave Himself without witness (Acts 14:17), some will deny He exists, and certainly deny any claim He makes to have all authority over us. Many men will deny the obvious, proclaiming themselves wise ["Are you dumb enough to believe in God?"] and beyond such "simple-mindedness," yet His attributes are clearly seen! The problem is not in the clarity, but in the willingness to see! Again, the root cause of this denial is that they might do what they want to do and have a clear conscience to engage in what are truly called Godless acts.

Some deny the fact of the end because they ultimately seek to deny what comes with the end: judgment. God's own people were not immune from the false idea that God would not punish, but fell prey to the deceptive words of false prophets, who told them, “Is not the Lord among us? No harm can come upon us” (Mic. 3:11). They had gotten so used to the longsuffering and mercy of God that they came to believe, “The Lord will not do good, nor will He do evil” (Zeph. 1:12). But to those false prophets who said, “It is not He. Neither will evil come upon us, nor shall we see sword or famine,” God promised, “Thus shall it be done to them” (Jer. 5:12, 13). When the end came for them, those denials must have seemed very foolish!

Today, I must sadly report that some of our own brethren are working hard at denying the reality of an end that includes punishment. It was not so long ago that we rightly chastised and ridiculed those who taught the idea of the so-called “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” in saying God would not punish the wicked for an eternity. But now we have men such as Ed Fudge, the late Homer Hailey, and F. LaGard Smith proclaiming this doctrine! [I will gladly furnish quotes from their writings to those who ask.] Oh, how far we have fallen! It seems we now have men who have followed the path of the false prophets and worthless priests of Israel’s day, proclaiming, “Peace! Peace!” When there is no peace. Friends and brethren, do not be fooled; when our Lord spoke of the coming punishment of the wicked (Matt. 25:46; John 5:28, 29), He was not deceived or mistaken!

In The End, God’s Word Proven True. (vv. 15, 16) In the context of this rebuke, God plainly tells us that the false prophets who said, “‘Sword and famine shall not be in this land’ — ‘By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed!” What they had spoken was “a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart” (v. 14), and for that they would be punished! Though the people, the priests, and the prophets all denied the coming end, it came — just as God said it would! Like all the times before when warnings were given and punishment was promised, God’s word was proven true by its fulfillment.

The apostle Peter warned against the false prophets who would come (2 Pet. 2:1-3; 4-10), and “exploit you with deceptive words” (v. 2) and who would “bring on themselves swift destruction” (v. 1). Peter comforted the minds of the faithful in reminding them that God had not in times past overlooked the evil deeds of men and even angels, and with that confidence, reminded the faithful that the Lord knew how to “reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (v. 9). Just as with the false prophets of old, God will punish the deceivers for their deception! Though they deny it, their punishment will come and theirs is most certain! Whenever we hear men today proclaiming the love of God would not allow a man to suffer punishment [and certainly not an eternal punishment], you can be sure that he will likely be on the receiving end of the very thing he denies will come, just as the false prophets of old.

The sad part of this rebuke is that God had to deal not only with the deceivers, but also with the deceived (v. 16). It is sad because the deceived receive no less a rebuke for having believed [willingly] the deception of the false prophets! The false prophets spoke deception, but they merely spoke what the people wanted to hear! For their willingness to hear deceptive words, the deceived would also be punished! Let us heed this warning every so seriously, for there are many deceivers gone out into the world who proclaim to be speakers of truth. Do not let us think that we are beyond the same fate, for if deceivers exist, there will be those who are deceived. Don't let it be us! The very possibility is found in the words of the apostle Paul, who warned, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit” and, “Let no one cheat you of your reward” (Col. 2:8, 18). If we are ignorant of truth, how can we know whether or not we are being deceived? It will be a sad day when we stand before God, having been led astray but believing we followed truth!

This sad occasion in the history of God's people is given for us an admonition to follow after the true path of righteousness and not be led away by the deceivers who promise peace and comfort when, in reality, we face the wrath of God. When we have men preaching salvation by mere confession of Jesus as the Christ, we are in danger of this certain punishment, for that is not the whole counsel of God! Yes, we must confess Jesus as the Christ, but we must also repent of our sins and turn to God (Acts 26:20). We must also be baptized into Christ for the remission of our sins and live faithfully until our last day (Acts 2:38; Heb. 10:34-39). What have you done? Will you be ready when the end comes?

 

By Steven C. Harper
From Expository Files 12.10; October 2005

 

 

 

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